The Anthropology of Ireland


Authors: Thomas M. Wilson and Hastings Donnan
Publisher: Berg Publishers
Published: 2006
ISNB-13: 9781845202392

Synopsis:Where and what is Ireland? What are the identities of the people of Ireland? How has European Union policy shaped Irish people’s lives and interests? This book argues that such questions can be answered only by understanding everyday aspects of Irish culture and identity. Such understanding is acheived by paying close attention to what people in Ireland themselves say about the radical changes in their lives in the context of wider global transformation. As notions of sex, religion, and politics are radically reworked in an Ireland being re-imagined in ways inconceivable just a generation ago, anthropologists have been at the forefront of recording the results. The first comprehensive book-length introduction to anthropological research on the island as a whole considers the changing place in a changing Ireland of religion, sex , sport, race, dance, young people, the Travellers, St. Patrick’s Day and much more.

Review: The synopsis does a great job of telling you what this book is all about so I’m not going to say much more on that. What I am going to talk about is how I saw this book and what I took away from it.

The book starts with two interesting questions; who invented Ireland and who invented the anthropology of Ireland? The answer to the first question is the Irish, the English, and the people of the Irish diaspora. The answer to the second question is the developing traditions of American cultural anthropology, the developing traditions of the British social anthropology, developments in Irish Universities and centers of learning in Ireland, and developments in wider and sometimes dissident intellectual, scientific and technological domains. Those two questions answered so early on set the stage for me in a lot of ways. I knew I had to set aside a few of my feelings on the word invented and I knew I had to keep an open mind as to what the authors might be sharing.

The themes that run through out the book are also mentioned right at the beginning and they are: that the book is about the anthropology of Ireland, in contemporary and historical form; how Ireland has been constructed in anthropological writing and professional practice, and finally to contribute to the continuing importance of comparison and the exploration of diversity and difference.

The book was not an easy read but it was certainly a very interesting one. To see what shapes a certain field though out time is interesting but to see it also in a country is just astonishing. Some parts were boring I have to admit, but on the whole it was a good read. If you are interested in anthropology and the anthropology of Ireland then I would definitely recommend this book.

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